(August 7, 2018 / JNS) In recent weeks, a handful of American Jews have loudly complained about being questioned by the Israeli police over their contacts with Palestinians. They would have us believe that the Israeli authorities are a bunch of iron-fisted totalitarians who are trying to suppress dissent. I don’t buy it.
The latest complainers are Simone Zimmerman and Abby Kirschbaum, who spent last weekend in the Sinai (that is, Egypt) and were questioned upon their return.
Zimmerman is one of the founders of the Israel-bashing organization “IfNotNow.” Her hostility to Israel is so extreme that she was too much even for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, himself a harsh critic of the Jewish state. She was fired from the Sanders’s presidential campaign after using obscenities to describe the prime minister of Israel.
Kirschbaum works for what she calls “a dual-narrative travel company dedicating to exposing the many faces and places of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” In other words, regular travel companies are not sufficiently sympathetic to the Palestinians, so Kirschbaum’s group steps in to provide the other “narrative.”
It’s not hard to understand why the Israeli police might want to ask them a few questions. What’s so awful about that?
A more high-profile case was that of philanthropist Meyer Koplow, who complained that he was “aggressively questioned” by the police as he was leaving Israel recently. One had to read deep into the news-media coverage of the incident to discover that he was questioned for all of 10 minutes.
The police wanted to know why Koplow had taken a tour of Palestinian areas in Judea-Samaria, and why he had a Palestinian pamphlet in his suitcase.
What exactly is wrong with the police wanting to know more about that? Are they supposed to have a special list of prominent donors to Brandeis University, like Mr. Koplow, who have the privilege of being in the “no-questioning” category, no matter what is found in their luggage? Even as the parent of a victim of terror that took place on Israeli soil, I get handled just like everyone else when I fly.
And what exactly was the “aggressive questioning” that so troubled Mr. Koplow? In his own words: “The best way I can describe it is a badgering form of questioning where before you finish giving one answer, you’re being asked the same question again as if what you said is not credible. She asked what purpose could possibly be served by people visiting the territories. She asked that several times.”
Well, that’s a shocker! The behavior of some Israelis, including security screeners at the airport, occasionally is ruder than that which we Americans are accustomed to. Meyer Koplow has visited Israel many times. Hasn’t he ever interacted with any real live Israelis?
He continued: “Why would you do that other than to send a message that the government doesn’t welcome your engaging in any kind of inquiry…?”
The answer to Meyer Koplow’s question is not hard to find. Just look at the news of the past week. It reveals that the government is not trying to suppress “any kind of inquiry,” but rather is grappling with the daily reality of Palestinian Arabs trying to stone, burn and shoot Jews to death.
In Jerusalem, Arabs threw rocks and firecrackers at Israeli policemen on the Temple Mount. (The Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, told the official Palestinian WAFA news agency they staged a “peaceful march.” I guess we have different definitions of peaceful.)
In Gaza, more than 7,000 Palestinians threw rocks, burning tires, pipe bombs and other explosives at Israeli soldiers near the border fence. Another “mostly peaceful” gathering.
Near the Jewish town of Oranit, two Palestinian teenagers were caught with machine guns on their way to carry out a massacre.
A cluster of flaming balloons landed on a street in eastern Beersheva. Near Mount Gezirim, a flaming kite set the fields of the Tura Winery on fire. News reports about these attacks mentioned that a flaming balloon also recently reached the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. But you didn’t read about that in The New York Times or hear it on CNN.
Near the town of Rimonim, three Jewish shepherds were injured by Arab rock-throwers. And at Dehaishe, near Bethlehem, an Israeli Border Policewoman was struck by a Molotov cocktail. It was only a miracle that she was not completely consumed by the flames.
All of this took place in just the past week. So thank goodness for the Israeli police officers and security officials who spend a few minutes questioning people when there is even the slightest reason for concern.
The extremely minor inconvenience involved helps save the lives of Jews every day, including Jews like Meyer Koplow, Abby Kirschbaum and Simone Zimmerman. Because rocks and machine guns and flaming kites don’t distinguish between Orthodox and Reform, or between hawks and doves. They are aimed at us all.
Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” will be published later this year.